Rushden & Diamonds F.C. is a professional football club based in Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire, England. Formed by a merger of 'Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds in 1992, the club currently plays in the Conference National following a short spell in the Football League at the start of the 2000s. Nicknamed the Diamonds, the club plays at Nene Park.
Rushden and Diamonds were formed on 21 April 1992 by a merger of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds. The merger was the brainchild of Max Griggs, the owner of Dr. Martens. The new club took Rushden Town's place in the Midland Division of the Southern League, but played at Irthlingborough's Nene Park as Rushden's Hayden Road was not good enough for promotion (they had been demoted from the Premier Division the previous season due to the state of their ground).
Rushden and Diamonds won promotion to the Southern League Premier Division in 1993 and Football Conference in 1996. In the season following promotion to the Conference, Brian Talbot was appointed as the club's new manager. As a player, he had turned out for Arsenal in the early 1980s. His previous managerial spells with West Bromwich Albion where he was sacked following defeat by in the FA Cup by Woking and Aldershot were disappointing.
After three near-misses they finally won promotion to the Football League as Conference champions in 2001. In their first season they reached the Division Three playoff final but lost to Cheltenham Town. In 2003 their promotion challenge was successful, they pipped Hartlepool United to the Division Three championship on the last day of the season and won their third promotion/league title in eight seasons.
2003–04 was a difficult season for Rushden and Diamonds. The club's board and supporters were hopeful of another promotion challenge, and some promising results in the early part of the season suggested that this could be achieved. But a run of bad results during the winter saw the club slip down the table and in March 2004 Brian Talbot left the club after seven years as manager to take charge at Oldham Athletic. Barry Hunter, with no previous managerial experience, was appointed as the caretaker player-manager, but with the club needing to offload its top players to balance the books it continued to slide further down the second division table and they were relegated in 22nd place after losing their last game of the season.
Ernie Tippett was appointed temporary manager of the team for the last three games of the 2003–04 season, and confirmed as permanent manager for the start of the 2004–05 season. Despite bringing in a large number of new players, after a dismal run of results which saw the team the media predicted as promotion contenders fall to 22nd place in League 2, he was sacked. Barry Hunter became caretaker manager again, and although there were many applicants for the position, he was appointed full-time manager towards the end of the season. The club staved off relegation but released several players at the conclusion of the campaign.
In the summer of 2005, Max Griggs handed over the club and certain assets to a supporters' trust, along with an initial cash pledge.
The 2005–06 season saw the club perform towards the lower end of the table as expected by the media. Manager Hunter rebuilt the squad in the January transfer window, and at the same time sold youth team products Andy Burgess, David Bell, and John Dempster. However, the club continued to struggle and on 29 April, Rushden were relegated to the Conference after a 2-0 defeat at Boston United, which resulted in manager Barry Hunter being told his contract would not be renewed at the end of the season. Paul Hart took over as manager on 23 May and on 7 July signed former Gillingham F.C. defender Chris Hope on a 2-year deal. Other close-season signings have included Leo Fortune-West, Glenn Wilson, Paul Watson and Jon Ashton. However, following a poor run of results, Hart left by mutual consent in mid-October, with goalkeeping coach Tony Godden becoming caretaker manager.
During their final two seasons in the Football League, Rushden & Diamonds enjoyed a fierce rivalry with fellow Northamptonshire club Northampton Town. The Diamonds won one encounter and Northampton won the other three. Since relegation back to the non-league the club have renewed their old rivalry with near-neighbours Kettering Town.
In July 2006 Helen Thompson became chairman of Rushden and Diamonds FC. In November 2006, the club was taken over by former Peterborough United vice-chairman Keith Cousins. In December 2006, former Farnborough and Stevenage manager Graham Westley was appointed as Rushden & Diamonds manager, with the aim of getting the club out of the relegation battle and build towards promotion back into the football league. After a seven-game unbeaten run, which featured five wins and two draws, Graham Westley was relieved of his duties on 24 February 2007 for unknown reasons. Two days later it was announced that former Weymouth manager Garry Hill would be Westley's replacement.
The club started 2007–08 with mixed fortunes. The Diamonds drew 1-1 away at Woking on the first day, courtesy of a goal from Curtis Woodhouse. A Wayne Hatswell header ensured victory over Farsley Celtic in the second match, however Diamonds lost 1-0 at home to Ebbsfleet United. Diamonds however then hit a poor run of form, with only 2 league wins in their next 13 games. With the team looking very disjointed, manager Garry Hill was widely expected to sign a new striker in the August Transfer Window but did not. This was eventually solved with the signing of Craig McAllister from Grays Athletic on loan who made an immediate impact as Rushden beat Oxford United 5-0. McAllister however, chose to sign for Oxford instead of making the move permanent in January 2008.
The Diamonds enjoyed early success in their 2007–08 FA Cup campaign. A 5-0 win over Solihull Moors was followed by a 3-1 win over Macclesfield Town. After this feat, the fans and players approached their 2nd round draw against Bristol Rovers as winnable. However, despite an early goal from Marcus Kelly, a 45-yard yard goal that was deemed "goal of the day" by Match of the Day, the Diamonds lost the game 5-1, in poor conditions. A disappointing result it was, however, in the two games which followed the Diamonds scored 6 goals. The Diamonds went into the Christmas break in 17th place. 12 points behind a play-off place, and 26 points behind league leaders Aldershot. After the Christmas break Rushden began to improve and had an unbeaten run from 29 January to 12 March including wins versus Ebbsfleet, Farsley, Altrincham and Woking but that run was ended with a 2-1 loss versus Histon. They recently became runners up of the Setanta Shield losing out to Aldershot after a thrilling 3-3 draw resulted in a penalty shoot-out and also got knocked out of the FA Trophy in the Quarter-Finals. Diamonds eventually finished the season in 16th place.
On 15 May 2008, Garry Hill started his summer by signing strikers Daryl Clare on a free transfer and Lee Phillips for an undisclosed fee. He has since added to these with the signings of Rob Wolleaston, Dean McDonald, Curtis Osano, Alan Marriott, Scott Mitchell, Jamie McGuinness, Gareth Jelleyman and Sagi Burton.
The club also announced their intention to build a 150-room hotel on the club's grounds.
The 2008–09 campaign began with a very successful pre-season tour to Portugal. After putting 7 past Halstead Town on home soil, Rushden played both Portimonense and Bristol City in Portugal. They drew 3–3 with Portimonense, and defeated Bristol City, the previous season's Football League Championship play-off finalists.
On 9 August, they beat newcomers Eastbourne Borough in their first Conference National fixture of the season 1–0 as Curtis Woodhouse scored from the penalty spot after 26 minutes. Three days later, they beat FA Trophy winners Ebbsfleet 2-0 courtesy of goals from Sam Smith and a first for the club from Lee Phillips. Their run of games without conceding came to an end in their 1-1 draw with newly-relegated Wrexham, with Sam Smith again scoring.
Rushden's main rival are nearby Kettering Town. The clubs have played ten competitive games together, all coming in the Conference National, with Kettering winning just once. After a seven year gap, Rushden and Kettering met once again during the 2008–09 season drawing 1–1.
Only 8 players have made over 200 appearances for the club: